Op-Ed: UN envoy seeking 3,000 troops for peacekeeing in Syria

Posted Oct 14, 2012 by Ken Hanly
The UN peace envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is drafting plans for a 3,000 strong force to police a future truce in Syria. The force could include European troops.
The new UN-Arab League peace envoy for Syria -- Lakhdar Brahimi.
The new UN-Arab League peace envoy for Syria -- Lakhdar Brahimi.
Brahimi, an Algerian diplomat, has taken over as a joint UN and Arab League peace envoy just last month. He has been quietly approaching different countries to see who might be willing to contribute troops to the mission.
Neither the U.S. nor U.K.. forces are expected to participate. Brahimi is looking to countries that support the Unifil mission of 15,000 that polices the border between Lebanon and Israel..Countries serving in Unifil include Germany, Ireland, France, Spain, and Italy. These troops have the inftrastructure and knowledge that would help them out in any peacekeeping operation in the area.
Even though U.S. and British troops might be attacked both by Islamists and Syrian government forces, perhaps troops from any western countries might find themselves subject to attacks. Details of Brahimi's plans were released as he arrived in Istanbul for talks designed to defuse tensions between Syria and Turkey. For several days, there has been cross-border shelling by both Syria and Turkey. Turkey also forced a Syrian commerical airliner fromo Moscow to land and authorities confiscated what they termed defense equipment.
FIghting by both sides seems to be escalating of late. The UK government appears not to be considering any direct military intervention as of now. UK Defense Secretary, Philip Hammond, said:"The best way forward is engagement and diplomacy, coupled with pressure applied by sanctions. "
Brahimi, took over as UN peace envoy after the resignation of Kofi Annan. Annan's mission had ended in failure. Brahimi wisely cautioned observers, noting that his own mission might be quite impossible as well. Given that each side seems to think that it can win the conflict, there is little appetite for even a cease fire, let alone peace talks. Even if most of the rebels and the Assad regime wanted a ceasefire, militant Islamists would likely carry on the conflict in any event.
At least Brahimi deserves high marks for trying to move toward peace. He is to visit Syria soon to try to convince the Assad government to call a ceasefire..Brahimi has ruled out using troops from neighbouring Arab states since most of them would be seen as supporting the rebels.
Brahimi is also contacting opposition groups to try to get them to consider negotiations. Any peacekeeping force would need to have a mandate from the UN Security Council. So far, China and Russia have backed Assad. However, any peacekeeping mission would need the backing of the Syrian regime anyway so that does not seem a huge problem. If there could be an agreement for Assad to step down that would make matters easier.
Turkey has been chastising the UN for not taking more action. However, it is hard to see how the UN can act unless both the rebels and the Syrian government are in agreement on a course of action, and at present, that does not seem likely. After the forced landing of the Syrian jet, relations between Turkey and Russia are worsening. However, Syria has accepted a Russian proposal for a joint Syrian-Turkish security committee to prevent cross-border conflict. Turkey's acceptance of such a proposal would be a positive move.